Michel Serres was born in France in 1930, and is Professor in History
of Science at the Sorbonne (Paris 1). He began his adult life by
training for the navy, and a love for the sea and its metaphors is
always evident in his work. Originally from the south of France,
Michel Serres is keenly interested in rugby. His philosophical work
began with the study of Leibniz, but following this he embarked on
his own self-expression, which led him to the five-volume Hermes
series of books. Some of Leibniz’ themes persist throughout his work,
particularly those concerned with combination, communication and
invention. His method is based on an encyclopaedic approach, and
this holism is evident in his writing: all kinds of data are held
to contribute to philosophy, and the philosopher must not cut
himself off from any form of investigation. His most recent work
bridges the gap between philosophy and literature, and it has a wide
readership.

RM: Every year you go to Stanford to teach, in the United States;
and what is it you teach there, philosophy, or the history of
philosophy?
MS: I’m usually a visiting professor in the Romance Languages
department, and, as you know, in America it’s generally in
French departments, departments of French language and
literature, that it has been possible to teach philosophy
of French expression. Generally what is taught under the
heading of philosophy of the Anglo-Saxon countries is the
philosophy of the analytic school, sometimes with a little of
the history of continental philosophy, as they say. Contemporary
French philosophy gets into the Anglo-Saxon countries
through departments of literature.
So I was invited to the United States for this very purpose,
to teach what I consider to be philosophy, within a department
of literature. This doesn’t bother me at all, since in a way it
is a French tradition which goes right back to Montaigne,
that philosophy and literature should have a productive
relationship, and for this reason we don’t always find it
easy to classify our authors. Should Montaigne be classified
as literature or philosophy? Diderot, Voltaire and so on . . .
this mixture of literature and philosophy is a valuable thing.
RM: Yes: but some complain that French philosophy is too
literary at the present time, that at least part of it is rather
too literary in character. What do you think?
MS: Well, you can always complain about your own tongue,
but your own tongue remains what it is. It is pointless
to complain that Montaigne is difficult to classify, or that
Diderot or Voltaire are difficult to classify, that’s how it is.
It’s our tradition, it’s our language.
RM: It’s wanting to classify at the outset. . .
MS: Exactly: that’s what I mean. The difference between philosophy
and literature is a product of the University: it
was with the invention of the University that the wish to
separate these things came into being. But if you take away
the University judgement on the matter, the classification is
absurd. Furthermore, it should not be said that in France
philosophy is primarily literary: if you take for example
the books which I have published, they raise matters of
science, and also mathematics. I’ve done studies of mathematics
in antiquity: seventeenth-century mathematics, modern
mathematics, nineteenth-century physics, virtually the whole
range of the history of science. I’ve been an historian of
science; the history of science, epistemology, is an old French
tradition.
The only thing in which France is somewhat behind is the
discipline we call logic, and that is simply because of the war,
in which the greatest logicians perished; several logicians died
in the 1914 war, and others died in the 1939 war. But, apart
from that, French philosophy has always had an encyclopaedic
scope. The real French tradition which carries on, and which
I hope myself to carry on, is that of Descartes, Auguste Comte,
Diderot and of Bergson himself, for whom philosophy must
have an encyclopaedic base. That is, the philosopher must be
a person who knows mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology
and so on, just as in the approach of August Comte.
RM: By encyclopaedic you don’t mean the tendency to collect
up all the factual items possible. . .
MS: No, no, not at all . . .
RM: In order to get a complete picture.
MS: This complete picture must be forgotten before philosophy
is undertaken, a bit like the Marquise of the eighteenth
century who said that the principles of good manners had to be
learnt in order to be forgotten as soon as possible. Otherwise,
people would in the end be still less polite than they were
normally. I think this is an old French tradition, and in this
respect I consider that I try to be, and to work, according to
this tradition. I’ve written on mathematics, physics, biology,
on the humanities . . .
RM: And literature.
MS: Yes, and literature is part of the grounding, you see, and
that’s what the French tradition is: it’s a certain relationship
to knowledge which does not hold that philosophy is a
specialism such as metaphysics, logic or linguistics. It’s a
kind of globalization.
RM: Yes: I think that the very word discipline contains this
notion of division, of something cut off.
MS: That’s right. For example, you yourself discuss the history
of religions: I am extremely attentive to developments in that
field. I have done a lot of work on people like Dumézil, and
other more recent theorists, and for me the history of religion
is also part of this philosophical groundwork. I can’t imagine
philosophy as a discipline. I think that philosophy is a sum, a
sum…
RM: A summa.
MS: In the sense of a summa, yes.
RM: So you are interested in comparative religion. Are you
interested in Eliade, for example?
MS: Yes, I have read almost everything he has written: I was
trained in history of religions within the triangle Georges
Dumézil, Mircea Eliade and René Girard. But of course a
philosopher doesn’t go into the fine details of the history
of religions, but looks at what is happening in the theory
which goes with it.
RM: So you’re a specialist in the thought of Leibniz . . .
MS: I was, I was. . .
RM: You’re no longer one?
MS: No, no. There’s a vulgar expression in French, ‘I’ve already
given’. When they pass around the plate at church it’s what
you say when you don’t give, because you’ve already given
once: it’s a common expression. When I wrote my Leibniz
I was an historian of philosophy, a competent specialist
in the field, I did my thesis, and, as far as this field is
concerned, ‘I’ve already given’. And I wanted passionately
to get out of it. I think that you have to be a specialist, but
afterwards you have to move away from your specific field.
I wrote the book on Leibniz because at the beginning of my
career I was a mathematician, and I lived through the great
revolution which saw modern mathematics put forward in
opposition to classical mathematics. When I was a student,
we changed mathematics, and it was a bit like changing
one’s language. This revolution was of great interest to me,
and it was partly the reason for my becoming a philosopher.
In studying the history of philosophy, I saw Leibniz as both a
classical mathematician and a modern mathematician: he was
classical in the sense that he was a follower of the dynamics
school, a theoretician of calculus and so on, but otherwise
he had an extraordinarily contemporary concept of algebra,
geometry and topology. So I studied Leibniz because I felt
that he anticipated this revolution in mathematics – there was
a kind of equilibrium between the old form of mathematics
and the new one. We moved from a mathematics of function
to that of structure. In large part, what was called structuralism
in France was in my view invalidated because people looked
for this idea of structure in linguistics, whereas it was very
well-defined in algebra. The extent to which I followed, and
even anticipated, the structuralist revolution, lay in the fact
that I had myself studied structure in the algebraic sense
within modern mathematics. So my work on Leibniz was at
once that of a classical historian and that of a ‘structuralist’,
insofar as Leibniz anticipated modern structuralism.
RM: And Leibniz is also interested in Christianity.
MS: Yes, there is a theology in Leibniz. I discuss it several
times in my book, but several years later I wrote a preface
to a translation of the letters of Leibniz to Father Des Bosses,
which belongs to the latter part of Leibniz’ life. Here, it
seems that Leibniz moved from a traditional theology . . .
to a Christian theology . . . and I was very impressed by
this translation because I felt that here Leibniz had added,
in a sense, to his system a kind of meditation on Christianity.
RM: Can we move now to your Hermes, the five books of which
a selection has been published in English under the same title.
The title is interesting: in antiquity Hermes was associated
with hermeneutics, and he was the ambassador of logos, of
reason. What did you mean by the title?
MS: It had a very precise meaning. You would know that there
were in a way two Hermes. Of course it is true that in
many ways Hermes symbolizes the god of hermeneutics, in
that he has a bit of an Egyptian background, with Hermes
Trismegistus, but it is not entirely that aspect which I had
in mind for the title of my books. I was rather thinking of
the more classical god, Hermes, of communication, the god
of transport, commerce, of sailors – the god whose statue was
placed at the crossroads of various towns. The Hermes which
was mutilated, they say, by Alcibiades.
RM: That’s the Hermes of classical Greece.
MS: Yes, it is the Hermes of classical Greece who figures in the
title of my book. Why? Because, at the end of the war, Marxism
held great sway in France, and in Europe. And Marxism taught
that the essential, the fundamental infrastructure was the
economy and production: I myself thought, from 1955 or 1960
onwards, that production was not important in our society,
or that it was becoming much less so, but that what was
important was communication, and that we were reaching
a culture, or society, in which communication would hold
precedence over production.
RM: And what do you understand by ‘communication’?
MS: The group of technologies which have now passed into
everyday life, which range from telephone communications,
for example, to data processing and computers. That technology
has in my view meant far more in the modern world
than the production of primary materials. And in fact the
future quickly showed that I was right, in that coal, steel,
and all kinds of industry have more or less disappeared,
whereas communication became the very foundation of our
society. And I take a little personal pride in the fact that
I anticipated in the years 1955 to 1960 the world in which
we now live. And at that stage, when I was finishing Leibniz
and when I was writing the Hermes series, I was halfway
between a structuralism of a mathematical or algebraic kind,
and a philosophy of communication, symbolized by Hermes
in classical Greece.
I have never been of the linguistic school, or the hermeneutic:
I have spent a lot of my life expounding texts, as we do in the
university world, but I have never drawn from it a philosophy,
as one does within the hermeneutic tradition. My Hermes, my
personal one, is the Hermes of communication, of the crossroads.
And in a way the reason for my work on Leibniz lay also
in the fact that he was the first western philosopher to have
established a philosophy which he himself called a philosophy
of the communication of substances. He calls monadology
a philosophy of the communication of substances. So
there was a connection between Leibniz and my Hermes.
RM: Communication in Leibniz’ sense means a kind of relation?
MS: Yes, exactly. Leibniz is the first to have seen that it was
difficult to develop a philosophy of primary particles, or of the
atoms, or of the metaphysical atoms, without tracing the paths
between the elements, or the relations between the atoms.
And he was the first – not the first, because the ancient Stoics
had the idea of a universe bound together by series – but he
was the metaphysician of the Stoic series.
RM: The idea of relation was not very much developed in
ancient philosophy.
MS: No, not even in the classical period. It was Leibniz who
really developed this. But with the Stoics there is a genuine
idea of the interrelationships between things. Leibniz made
of it an idea which was both metaphysical and mathematical,
and in this respect he anticipates modern thinking.
RM: In Plato there is practically no notion of relation: there is the
same and the other, difference and identity. And difference
is a problem: there is nothing to explain the communication
between things.
MS: Yes. At the stage when I wrote my Leibniz and my Hermes
books, the problem of communication, and the problem of
algebraic structures, were pretty much my cup of tea.
RM: May I turn now to a question which we have already
touched on, in relation to the language of philosophy. It
sometimes seems, particularly in the Anglo-American tradition,
to be the goal of philosophy to develop a single rational
language, an apodeictic language. Is the goal of philosophical
enquiry, in your view, to develop a kind of clean language,
rigorous and universal: a sort of computer language?
MS: I don’t think that’s the goal of philosophy. I am not of
the Anglo-American school and I am not a philosopher of
language. Consequently, an idea like this has never been
central to my concerns, and that for two reasons. Firstly, I was
myself a scientist originally: I was a mathematician for many
years. And I have often dealt with physics, thermodynamics,
questions of biology and so on. For me the language of truth,
the language of exactitude and rigour, is the language of
science and it has already been found. So why have another
language to reach goals which have already been in some
sense attained? We already have rigour in mathematics,
exactitude in the natural sciences, and so on. Secondly,
I have been very interested in the history of science and
I have observed for a long time that there are two mathematical
traditions, and not just one. Before the Greeks there was an
Egyptian mathematics, or Assyrio-Babylonian, and it’s of the
algorithmic type. The algorithmic approach is one, and it is
this that computer language is rediscovering. It’s a very old
tradition. And these machine algorithms are of great interest,
and they allow a certain type of discovery, of a certain type
of truth. But that is one field, and in my view philosophy is
entirely different.
RM: You’ve recently brought out a book, The Five Senses, which
won the Prix Médicis in Paris. What was your motivation in
writing this book?
MS: For fifty years, the only question has been the question
of language, whether one belongs to the German school, the
Anglo-American school or even the French. All you hear
about is the spoken language or writing. And in France,
Sartre produces Words, Foucault writes Words and Things, in
which language is the chief issue. Recently, a book has come
out called The Grammar of Objects. In my day little children
were given lessons on naming things: it’s as if we can only
feel or perceive to the extent that we possess language. My
book is a reaction against this theory: it can be put clearly
in just a few words. We never say ‘the colour of the sky’ or
‘the colour of blood’, or ‘the colour of wheat’, or ‘the colour of
plums’. We say ‘blue’, ‘red’, ‘yellow’, or ‘violet’. So we have
words for colours, and there analytic philosophy is right. It is
possible in fact that we cannot perceive a variety of blue for
which we do not have a name. But it gets more complicated
with the sense of smell, and I’ve been greatly interested in
taste and smell, as a Frenchman who likes wine and who can
appreciate good wine. You know that the mouth is an organ
which is quite. . . weak. . . whereas the sense of taste is an
organ of great wealth. In the book I point out that we never
say anything other than ‘the smell of a rose’, or ‘the smell of an
apricot’, or ‘the smell of. . . ‘. We refer to a thing, but there is
no name for the smell. And if what the linguistic analysts said
were true, we would have no noses, since we have no names
for the sensations provided by the sense of smell. There are
no adjectives for it. The sense of smell is entirely without
adjectives. If analytic philosophy were right, we would be
condemned to being without this sense. The linguistic school
is a school with no sense of smell, and no taste. Now, when
referring to humankind, we say homo sapiens, as you know.
But people who don’t know Latin don’t know that sapiens
refers to tasting with the mouth and the tongue – ‘sapidity’
comes from that. So we say homo sapiens to refer to our species,
forgetting that this expression refers primarily to tasting with
the mouth, with an organ. The origins of the idea are very
important.
RM: That’s interesting: in antiquity, man was defined as an
animal which laughs. But you say. . .
MS: Yes, I remember: no, I don’t say that; I say merely that
when we say homo sapiens, we’ve forgotten that the origin
of the notion of wisdom, or of discourse – because for us
man is speaking man – lies in the capacity to taste with the
mouth, and with the sense of smell. For most philosophers
this wisdom, this sapience, resides in language.
RM: Taking up an earlier remark, what you say on the language
of the sense of smell, or the lack of it, explains perhaps the
language of wine and of wine appreciation, in the sense that
it’s a language which is drawn from other areas; it can be
practically incomprehensible.
MS: One chapter of my book, which is called ‘Table’, is devoted
to the description of a glass of white wine, a Bordeaux, which
is called Château d’Yquem. I give the year, and I go over the
type of language which is required if you’re going to give a
description of this wine. I try to describe the sensation in
order to show how defective language is in the case of this
sensation.
RM: Which amounts to saying that there is a human capacity
which does not have a language.
MS: This is true of the sense of smell, which is an example
I don’t in fact give in my book, but which I often give to
describe my view: we don’t always have the vocabulary for
our sensations. I chose there the sense of smell, but there’s
another example: the varieties of pink distinguished by the
painter Van Dyck in the hip of Eve – the number of shades
defies the vocabulary available. Vocabulary is less rich than
the varieties of pink used by Van Dyck. So my book is devoted
to a defence of the qualitative, the empirical, to a defence of
the non-reducibility of the empirical to the logical. I would
go so far as to say that a form of knowledge has been lost,
an empirical form, blotted out by the linguistic and virtually
algebraic revolution.
RM: And are there other developments of this idea? Do you
limit it to sensation?
MS: Well I called the book ‘The Five Senses’, and I discuss of
course the sixth sense, this sense we have of our own bodies;
there’s a whole chapter on the sense of body. This is a new
book for me since I have in the past been concerned with
scientific questions of the sort we were discussing a moment
ago, and the book represents an attempt to reconstruct
philosophy in another terrain . . . another terrain, not the
one we’ve been using for the last half-century, which is that
of language.
RM: I’ve been wondering if there’s a possible metaphysical
extension of these ideas: I was thinking of Wittgenstein’s
unspeakable, for example.
MS: Perhaps, but the extension is in the subtitle. The Five Senses
also has the title ‘Philosophy of Mixed Bodies’: it’s the first
volume, and after this I’ll discuss several other problems, but
not within the category of the unspeakable. It’s a category
which is too easy: it’s nothing more than the other side of
the speakable. I’m going to organize the remainder under the
heading of the idea of mixture, which is a notion which was
studied by Plato in the Philebus, and then by the Stoics.
RM: Could you explain the meaning of the subtitle: ‘Philosophy
of Mixed Bodies’? It’s the idea of mixture, contact. . .
MS: It is the idea of mixture that I’m going to deal with.
What happens when two bodies are so close they cannot be
distinguished? I was brought to this question by the question
of sensation. I must say, if only for the joke, how amusing it
appears to the man in the street that a book on sensation, and
there are now dozens of them in English and French, should
have to begin by the statement of different algebraic rules.
I’ve never felt the need for algebraic structures, even though
this has been my field, to taste a glass of white wine. There’s
a sort of schizophrenia here, which seems to me to be both
laughable and a bit tragic. In the modern world, it must be
said, we are indeed losing our senses.
RM: I see a passage on silence in The Five Senses. What is the
function of silence?
MS: I mention silence in the common or garden sense, and
I argue that in our world it no longer exists. It no longer exists
because in the open spaces of the country or the sea, where
silence once reigned, motors and the media have filled it with
noise. We have to fight against the power of noise, which is
immense and frightening.
RM: But what we sometimes call silence is in fact a set of noises
which we find pleasant or comforting, but absolute silence is
something different. . .
MS: I sometimes encountered absolute silence in my youth in the
Sahara, or far out to sea with zero wind and a totally calm
sea – that is silence in relation to noise. There’s another silence
which is in relation to language, and again there is a kind of
meditation beyond language. In the same manner as the issue
of sensation a moment ago, it’s self-evident, without having to
be argued out, that silence is a precondition of philosophical
reflection. Linguistic philosophy overlooks this to the extent
that thinking, in this perspective, is the same as speaking.
Thinking in my view is first and foremost being silent. It’s a
necessary condition for the emergence of something else. So
it’s true that in my books, and in the ones which are to follow,
there is much in honour of silence, as opposed to the word.
RM: Yes, in a sense language is made of silence. There have to
be silences between words, between syllables. It’s distinction,
or difference, which allows for language. But you have also in
The Five Senses a passage on play; the play is situated in the
body, and you seem to suggest that there is no play which is
specifically distinct from the body, but that there is a type of
continuity .
MS: Yes: I said before that there were several passages in the
book on the sixth sense, the sensation of one’s own body, and
in fact I thought I’d amuse myself by carrying out a meditation
in the manner of Descartes, but outside all language, and
without any reference to an abstract soul; it was a virtual
recounting of the birth event. I was able to experience, in a
rather tragic circumstance, and I attempt to suggest it here,
that the body carries within itself a type of centre, which you
could call the subject. It’s an analysis which has significance
for the understanding of the body, I think.
RM: You’re relating the subject to the body: often it’s said that
Plotinus was the first to formulate the notion of the subject:
he asks the question ‘what is the we?’, the hemeis, several
times.
MS: I’ve said a great deal about the ‘we’ in a book which came
out before The Five Senses and which deals with Rome. It’s
called Rome: The Book of Foundations, and in it I analyse the
first book of Livy, and the manner in which Roman society
established itself. I’ve attempted to deal with this
question: what is the multiplicity, what is the fundamental
characteristic of this multiplicity which we can call ‘we’?
RM: In the modern world we often make use of the notion of a
sole and individual self isolated, cut off from others – in fact
the opposite of the experience of antiquity.
MS: Yes, and in fact it’s the opposite of our own experience as
well. It’s clear as soon as we’re in the circle of Hermes that
this metaphysical vision of isolated atomic individuals is an
abstraction which has nothing to do with reality.
RM: In your book The Parasite, which has appeared in English,
I think you raise some of these issues.
MS: Yes, I was trying to find a link between elements, between
individuals, of an almost atomic character. The relationship
between two people, the father/son relationship for example,
I called the double-arrow relationship because there are two
poles. But the parasitic relationship is a simpler one: it’s a
single arrow which goes in one direction but not the other,
because the parasite is a creature which feeds on another, but
gives nothing in return. There’s no exchange, no balance sheet
to be drawn up; there’s no reciprocity in the relationship,
which is one-dimensional.
RM: And the parasite grows bigger more quickly than its host.
MS: Yes, there is a reciprocity which is difficult to grasp: if the
parasite eats too much, he’ll kill his host, and it’ll die by the
same token. And the term ‘parasite’ has three meanings in
French, not two as in English. The parasite in French is firstly
someone who eats at the table of another, without being
invited: that’s the parasite of the Latin and Greek comedies.
Then there’s the sense drawn from parasitology, the parasite
which can even be a microbe, from the single cell creature
to the insect, and which feeds on a host. The third meaning,
which was used in English a bit at the end of the nineteenth
century, is that of static on the line, that is, noise within
communication. I’ve tried to find the coherence between the
biological, the sociological and the physical meaning of the
parasite.
RM: You really think there’s some common thread between the
three of them?
MS: Yes, there is one. What I found of interest here was what
I call the atom of communication. The simplest link between
two things is the parasitic relationship, and this idea provides
an analysis which is deeper, more fundamental, than the
current analysis of gifts, exchange, and so on, which are
always relationships of balance. By contrast, the parasitic
relationship is an unbalanced one, particularly in the social
sense: when a parasite is your guest in the social sense, there
is sometimes some return on the relationship, but the parasite
always makes his return in words. One gives him food, but
in return he makes fine speeches. There is the beginning of
an exchange here, which gives language its correct value:
language is the counterfeit money with which food is paid for.
This is a very interesting theme in Roman comedy, and it can
tell us something about language, and about the philosophy of
language ipso facto. This was very interesting to me at the time
because it was my point of entry into the humanities, coming
from the exact sciences, and it was to study the fundamental
social relationship, which I consider to be a parasitic one.
RM: And now you occupy a chair of history, is that correct?
MS: History of science: that’s my trade; at the outset I was
almost exclusively an historian of mathematics. Then I worked
on the history of thermodynamics, nineteenth-century physics,
and now my field is the history of ideas and history.
RM: And so what do you think of the disciplines, the disciplinary
divisions in the university world?
MS: I think that the dividing up of the disciplines into very
narrow cells is certainly one of the causes of the effectiveness
of science. But from the point of view of truth in general we’ve
lost a lot, and the goal of philosophy should be to try to create
a synthesis, where analysis goes off into detail. I’ve dealt with
this at length in two books, in the second volume of Hermès
which is subtitled ‘Interference’, and in Hermès V, subtitled
‘The North-West Passage’, and in the latter in particular
I examined what is now called interdisciplinary studies.
RM: So philosophy’s not a discipline which is set apart, in its
own corner.
MS: I called the book ‘The North-West Passage’ _ you know
the passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific, to
the north of Canada, which is very difficult and complicated
to negotiate – as an image for the passage between the
humanities and the exact sciences. I think the job of philosophy
is to open up this passage between the exact sciences
and the humanities.
RM: To create communication?
MS: Yes: when Socrates was questioned on philosophy in
Xenophon’s Symposium, he replied that it was mastropeia;
this is a trade of low repute in our society. It is the activity
of the person who puts into communication men and women.
Philosophy has the job of federating, of bringing things
together. So analysis might be valuable, with its clarity,
rigour, precision and so on, but philosophy really has the
opposite function, a federating and synthesizing function.
I think that the foundation of philosophy is the encyclopaedic,
and its goal is synthesis.
RM: And does contemporary French philosophy conform to
this definition in your view?
MS: Yes, it has always done so, since the eighteenth century.
It was encyclopaedic in character then; it endeavoured to
bring people together into one salon. Experts from all sorts of
horizons were brought together into one salon. The university
functions in the opposite way, in that it divides the experts.
I don’t know if all French philosophy today conforms to
this ideal, but my work does: it doesn’t involve a system
of thought, but a synthesis.
As I get older I am more and more attracted by ordinary
language, a philosophy which does not need terms other
than those drawn from everyday language to express itself.
I don’t think we have to be either grammarians or specialists:
I believe in ordinary language. In The Five Senses I do
not think I’ve used the word ‘transcendental’ more than
twice. I use technical vocabulary as little as possible now.
RM: Like Plato.
MS: Yes, I think Plato’s a leader in that; with him there’s
an analytic philosopher called Socrates, and a non-analytic
philosopher called Plato. There are two of them: Socrates is
the grammarian who speaks in short sentences, who analyses,
who cuts up into pieces, and who clarifies. He brings clarity,
but Plato speaks at length; he writes the Symposium, the
Phaedrus and so on. He’s the inspired one, and I believe in this
coupling of the grammarian and the stylist, the philosopher
and the writer, the scientific intelligence and the literary
intelligence. I believe in both.
RM: And you think that ordinary language has more value than
we realize?
MS: Not only does it have more value, but it is also true Plato
was a great philosopher because he expressed magnificently
the language of the Athenians. And we have that role too:
philosophers have to strive continually to bring ordinary
language back to life.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
Le Système de Leibniz et ses modeles mathématiques, 2 vols, republished
in one volume (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1982).
Hermès I. La communication (Paris: Minuit 1969).
Hermès II. L’interférence (Paris: Minuit 1972).
Hermès III. La traduction (Paris: Minuit 1974).
Hermès IV. La distribution (Paris: Minuit 1977).
Hermès V. Le passage du Nord-Ouest (Paris: Minuit 1980).
English version in résumé: Hermes. Literature, Science and Philosophy
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1982).
Feux et signaux de brume. Zola (Paris: Grasset 1975).
La Naissance de la physique dans Ie texte de Lucrèce. Fleuves et turbulences
(Paris: Minuit 1977).
Le Parasite (Paris: Grasset 1980); English version: The Parasite (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press 1982).
Rome. Le livre des fondations (Paris: Grasset 1983).
Les Cinq Sens (Paris: Seuil1986); English version to appear (New York:
A. Knopf).

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